Finally: Environment Plays a Role in a Presidential Election


For the first time in my lifetime the environment is a top-tier issue in a presidential race, as was clearly in evidence in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. It was next to impossible for a candidate to have any sort of press event without seeing the signs calling for action on global warming. And the candidates knew it--Republican and Democrat alike. They saw the signs, heard the questions, and knew they had to respond. Of course, some have far better plans than others, but we have a rare opportunity in this election: The candidates know they can’t win without articulating their plan on clean energy and global warming, so we can stop wasting our efforts trying to make them pay attention to the issue, and instead highlight the good proposals and shine a bright light on plans that are bad, flimsy, or greenwashed.I’m given hope not only because clean energy and global warming have become top-tier concerns, but because of the connections these issues have with youth, and the role they can play in increasing youth turnout at the polls. The number of youths (21 – 29) participating in Iowa's Democratic caucuses tripled from 2004, and they made up 22 percent of total Democratic voters. The candidates know that global warming is a top-of-mind concern for a lot of these much-coveted youth voters. I heard Clinton, Obama, Edwards and McCain all weave together themes of hope, youth, and protecting the world from global warming.

Of course I wish the clean energy and global warming debate in this country was farther down the road; I wish our current president was a leader, not a foot-dragger beholden to the old dirty-energy industries and mindset. But things are moving fast; I would never have predicted even two years ago that we would see the leading presidential contenders competing with each other to be better on global warming and explicitly tying their policies to young voters’ futures.

And speaking of global warming, here's an update on polar bears (which I posted about on Dec. 27th - ): The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife delayed its Jan. 9th deadline for recommending listing the polar bear as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. Department officials say they'll announce their recommendation within a month’s time -- a fishy timeline considering that on Feb. 6th the Department of the Interior will sell the leasing rights for oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea, north of Alaska. The Chukchi is home to one-tenth of the world's polar bears.

How convenient that this 30-day delay allows just enough time for the lease sale to go forward without oil companies getting cold feet or Americans getting angry that we are allowing oil companies to go into polar bear habitat when the feds have officially recognized it as being under threat.

A "threatened" listing for the polar bear would represent the first major Endangered Species Act (ESA) initiative taken by the U.S. government because of global warming. The ESA defines a threatened species as one likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. A recent U.S. Geological Survey report indicated that if global warming continues unchecked, two-thirds of the world’s polar bears-and all of America’s polar bears-could disappear by 2050.

Oil drilling in polar bear habitat makes the animal's future even more precarious. Make your voice heard about the oil drilling in the polar bear seas -- this should not be allowed.

Image credit::Sierra Club member, New Hampshire USA